Down the Blighted Path


Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

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Down the Blighted Path

A spiteful dark fey necromancer threatens the family lines of an honored dwarven hero to exact vengeance. The dead rise in answer to the call of the stolen Firebrand and lay waste to their own homelands. Can the adventurers stop the torture and bloodshed while facing horror and despair Down the Blighted Path?

Down the Blighted Path is a Pathfinder adventure module for 5th-level characters, the PCs should reach 6th-level by the adventure’s end.

Background

Two centuries ago, the dwarven axe maiden now known as Lady Delbera Axebringer was simply called Delbera. Exploring Avistan with a party of adventurers, The Rising Blades, they defended the helpless, fought evil and amassed a sizeable trove of treasures. During their travels, they crossed paths and blades with numerous enemies, infamous and forgettable alike. One such memorable battle involved Audalot Karexin and his disciple Zohir Totek, orphne necromancers (see below). Much to the dismay of the two fey, The Rising Blades ruined their plans to subjugate the svirfneblin village of Oremont. Undead minions threatened to overwhelm the adventurers as Karexin and Totek attempted to flee. Delbera killed Karexin, but only at the expense of allowing Totek to make her escape.

The Rising Blades eventually retired from adventuring to begin or return to their families; the encounter faded into history and stories told for grandchildren. But Zohir Totek never forgot the insult leveled against her and her mentor. Her white-hot rage grew into the deep eternal flame that fueled her every decision. Zohir swore unending pain to The Rising Blades, for once they died they would enter into her sphere of influence. One day they would watch her destroy everything they held dear and they would be powerless to stop her.

PC hooks and getting involved:

Player characters begin play in Macridi, Druma, located between Andoran and Five Kings Mountains. The PCs are in Macridi for various reasons, including looking for work as hired guards for the traveling merchants, attending the festival as visitors and tournament participants, or returning locals of the region. If there are any dwarven PCs in the party, consider making them a member of Lady Delbera’s extended family and the target of the first encounter’s attack. Members of her extended family have heard rumors of other family members going missing. Non–dwarven PCs may also belong to the families of other members of The Rising Blades.

Chapter 1: Sweet Revenge
Macridi Spring Festival

When the spring rains end the logging season in Palakar Forest, the residents of Macridi mark the time by celebrating new life and a successful harvest. Merchant and trader caravans arrive to fill their wagons with rare lumber and join the local humans, dwarves, and fey from the surrounding forests to celebrate along the Profit’s Flow riverbank. The air smells of delicious foods, and lively music sparks spontaneous dancing from young and old attendees alike. Mayor Bensik hosts the annual tournament of martial skill, which ends with a small group melee. The crowd chooses their favorites for whom to cheer and shouts the blow count across the field.

The tournament grounds erupt in screams of terror and panic when five dwarven skeletons (dwarven skeleton fighters 5) push through the gathered crowd, grabbing, scanning, and pushing away dwarves as their hollow eyes search for someone. One of the skeletons finds his target, a young dwarven man selling sweets near the PCs. The skeleton picks him up as the dwarf kicks and screams, and turns to leave. Several festival goers try to wrestle him away from the skeleton as it fights them off. The other skeletal soldiers converge on the screaming man and his captor to secure the abduction. The skeletons fight off the man’s defenders and make their escape, unless they are stopped by the PCs. The skeleton soldiers fight with the purpose to escape with their captive, and sacrifice themselves to delay or defeat anyone who comes between them and their goal of kidnapping the dwarf.

Anyone with sufficient local knowledge of Macridi may identify the origin of the soldiers. The colors and insignia on the soldiers’ armor designate them as belonging to a familial dwarven ancestor of the victim, Lady Delbera Axebringer. After rescuing the dwarf or their own party member, the PCs are enlisted by Mayor Bensik and the man’s family to investigate Firebrand’s Redoubt to investigate the attack by the undead and determine the reason for the attack on the family members.

Family members:

Firebrand’s Redoubt has secret escape tunnels that are only known to family members, information about these tunnels is not readily offered unless the PCs take the time to prepare for their excursion and speak with the family directly or a party member is of proper heritage.

The skeletons got away with the dwarf:

The man’s family hires the PCs to investigate and rescue him. The skeletons can be followed into the hilly region south of Macridi to a cave entrance and eventually to Firebrand’s Redoubt.

Firebrand’s Redoubt

At Firebrand’s Redoubt, the PCs find the seals on the building are broken and the Redoubt is defended by the skeletons of soldiers who once served the Redoubt in life. The PCs must breach the Redoubt through the front gate, which is unsealed but not unprotected. The outside doors lead directly into the main entryway which is lined with arrow slits. There are 2 archers posted on each side of the entryway. The secondary doors are ajar, broken off their hinges, but the opening is filled with toppled statuary from the gallery hall beyond. The PCs must run the gamut of arrows to reach the doors that access the hallways behind the slits to deal with the guards. An additional 4 soldiers join the combat after three rounds to aid the stronghold’s defenders.

Coming in the secret tunnel:

If the PCs entered through the escape tunnels, they encounter 4 soldiers in the ballroom first and 4 archers join the combat after three rounds.

Inside the gallery hall, the PCs discover what happens to abducted dwarves — staked remains of dwarven men, women and children line the walls. Lady Delbera (dwarven mummy fighter 5) is unable to engage the skeletons directly but will offer non–combat assistance if one of her family members is in danger. She arrives five rounds after the PCs enter the main hall or two if the combat begins in the ballroom.

After the skeletons are defeated, the PCs are faced with a mummy unlike any other they may have encountered before. Lady Delbera is wary of the intruders, but does not immediately attack. The PCs must convince her that they are there to help before she stands down. If Delbera is killed, see below.

If Lady Delbera is enlisted as an ally, she tells the party how she came to be a cursed mummy trapped in her own tomb, surrounded by her own men. She remembers the time up until her own passing 75 years ago, then waking to find the necromancer Zohir Totek standing over her holding her battleaxe, Firebrand. Lady Delbera explains that while alive, her men swore their oaths of fealty on the axe. Now that Zohir Totek holds the axe, she holds those oaths over Delbera’s once loyal men.

I am not certain how Zohir raised or cursed me, but I cannot leave the Redoubt. She ordered my men to go out and find my family through a ritual she cast. They bring them back here and execute them while I am compelled to stand aside and watch.

The murders of her family members and desecration of their corpses enrages the dwarven mummy, as does, to a lesser extent, the desecration of her tomb. Delbera also shares the story of how The Rising Blades defeated Audalot Karexin.

Zohir is angry that we killed her lover and ruined their plans. Totek must be destroyed to break the curse, and without the axe, I cannot recall my men from their hunt. More people will die while she holds Firebrand. I cannot leave and reclaim it. Will you bring me my axe?

Firebrand (Treasure):
Firebrand is a +1 flaming dwarven double waraxe. All allies who swear loyalty of their own free will to the wielder of this waraxe gain a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against fear and a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls while within 60 feet of the weapon.

We killed Delbera:

Delbera does not directly threaten the PCs; however, if the PCs slay the mummy, the information they need is available in letters, mementos, and haunts. The haunts of Firebrand’s Redoubt hold clues to the identity, location, and reasons for Zohir Totek’s actions against the family of Lady Delbera — The ballroom haunt is of an oath-swearing ceremony. Lady Delbera holds her axe before soldiers that wear armor like the skeletons, who swear themselves to her. In the amphitheater, a small troupe performs a dramatic retelling of the battle between The Rising Blades and the necromancer Karexin.

Chapter 2: Following the Blighted Path

Information gathered at the Redoubt points the PCs toward Court of Ether, the fey city of Nar-Voth. The PCs find a passageway deeper into the cave system leading to The Long Road. Traveling along the dwarven-made tunnel, there are signs of recent passage by other groups. The PCs risk encountering duergar slaving caravans while they are on The Long Road.

Ultimately, the PCs may choose to make their way through the smaller tunnels of Nar-Voth or take the larger, slightly more well-traveled roads to the Court of Ether when they turn south from The Long Road. Should the PCs choose to follow an old dwarven road, they discover a nest of spiroskeks (R3) using the long straightaway as a hunting ground. The spiroskeks ambush unsuspecting travelers and locals by running their prey into a crack that cuts across the roadway that is deep enough to trap prey.

The Endless Gulf

The Endless Gulf splits the earth down through Nar-Voth, Sekamina and into the Midnight Mountains of Orv. Distant, pale lights delicately outline the Court of Ether’s inverted spires, and concentric circles of phosphorescent fungi look like stars overhead along the dome of the great cavern.

The PCs must cross the Endless Gulf. Platforms and bridges are seen in the distance, but they stand on a wide ledge that ends overlooking the empty expanse. While they take in the situation, the sounds of a skirmish can be easily detected further down the ledge. The PCs discover a group of five svirfneblin scouts defending themselves against undead gremlins lead by a male fey (orphne alchemist 2). Three dead svirfneblin already lie on the ground. The svirfneblin leader spots the party and cries out for help. The orphne raises the dead svirfneblin and commands them to attack the PCs. The undead fight until they are defeated. The orphne retreats when he reaches one half of his hit points by mounting his doombat and flying into the Endless Gulf.

Orphne CR4 (New monster):
Once exiled from the First World, orphne moved deep within the earth to areas in close proximity to lazurite deposits, over time they developed the ability animate dead as a ray effect. Orphne are disturbingly beautiful nymph–like fey with light colored eyes and angular features framed by hair that ranges from pale to dark blues and greens. They are lovers of art and music, which they prefer to create through the suffering of others.

If they PCs save the svirfneblin, they offer assistance and invite the party to their village, opening up the opportunity for trade and supply replenishment in Oremont.

Optional Location: Oremont:

Oremont (N; pop. 500; 95% svirfneblin, 5% other)
Oremont is a small svirfneblin village eking out a meager existence in the tunnels of Nar-Voth. Residents of Oremont are a suspicious and private lot; there are no easy allies found among their number due to the harsh nature of the Darklands. Survival is both a personal responsibility of each member of town and for the town as a whole. They are wary of travelers in the tunnels that surround the village and avoid casual interactions.

If the party travels to Oremont, they hear the history of Audalot Karexin and Zohir Totek’s original plans to enslave the svirfneblin village for their mined resources and to use villagers as test subjects for their dark experiments. Saving Oremont was not the reason The Rising Blades unexpectedly arrived in the village, but the svirfneblins remember them as heroes. The locals know that Totek escaped and survived. They post vigilant scouts at the edge of the Endless Gulf and are more alert due to her recent activities. They fear that she will return to Oremont now that her power approaches that of her master’s when he was destroyed.

Regardless of whether the PCs choose to take the side trip to Oremont or not, the svirfneblin scouts show the party where Zohir resides. She took over her master’s home, Karexin Tower, which is across the Endless Gulf from the svirfneblin village. The PCs acquire mobat mounts from the svirfneblin scout leader to fly across the open abyss.

All the svirfneblin died:

If the PCs do not save any svirfneblin, the mobat mounts of the slain svirfneblin are nearby already harnessed. A successful handle animal check is required to use the animals. The PCs are unable to find Oremont on their own. The PCs must search for Zohir’s lair.

Pixies mounted on stirge hounds (Paizo blog Beasts of the Black Blood) guard the Court of Ether airspace are seen gliding through the darkness. A patrol of four mounted pixies hide among the low hanging stalactites to attack the party as they cross the area.

Chapter 3: Closing the dark circle

Karexin Tower consists of a single enormous excavated stalactite connected to several smaller cut-out stalactites hanging near the edge of the chasm. A shallow ledge protrudes out under part of the compound. Platforms are built in curves or rings around many of the stalactites, and above the ledge there is a series of groomed platforms and hanging plants. Three dread gluttons (R3) are visible tending the garden area near the landing platform.

Access to the interior of the stalactite is at the top, nearest to the roof. The top floor is general living quarters for the tower, then traveling down is a laboratory, a library and then Zohir’s personal quarters near the point. Living and undead pixie (Bestiary 228) servants occupy the upper levels of the tower and redcap (Bestiary 2 233) and pixie guards patrol the outer platforms singularly and in pairs. The stone columns provide cover for the party if they choose to use subterfuge to eliminate the guards. If combat lasts for more than 3 rounds, pixie reinforcements arrive.

If he survived, the orphne from the svirfneblin encounter is waiting for the party on the laboratory level of the tower, above the library. He uses bombs and the chemicals at hand to slow the party. Trigger traps are set up around the room to prevent the PCs’ progress through the room.

The library’s bookshelves radiate from a central table and stairs curve down the outside wall of the high domed room. Long windows and balcony doors are open to the outside. On the outside walls, three gargoyles still as statues (Bestiary 137) perch on plinths between the shelves. Hanging on the wall across from the descending stairs hangs a dwarven double waraxe. Zohir Totek (orphne wizard 3) sits at the center table. She looks up slowly from her book.

It would seem I have visitors. I don’t get many of those here. Did the svirfneblin send you or the dwarf? No matter, I’m sure both will be disappointed when I’m finished with you.

Zohir nods once to the air, signaling her gargoyle followers to action. Zohir’s gargoyles receive the benefits of Firebrand while they are in the room. Utilizing the open space above the bookshelves, the gargoyles circle to attack the PCs below.

Zohir avoids melee combat by keeping the tables, bookshelves or other obstacles between her and the PCs as much as possible and used her magical attacks from range. If PCs close to melee, Zohir uses her wand of vampiric touch.

When a gargoyle dies, Zohir animates it and it returns to battle as a zombie gargoyle.

Conclusion
Once Zohir Totek and her minions are destroyed, the PCs may attempt to wield Firebrand to recall Lady Delbera’s men to the Redoubt before returning there themselves. Lady Delbera has one final request, that her family members be entombed properly in the Redoubt. She releases all oaths from the axe and passes it along to the party as a token of her gratitude. Lady Delbera returns to her eternal rest once the waraxe is safely passed on to a new generation of adventurers.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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First of all, congratulations on making it to the final round! That's an accomplishment in and of itself! My review of the proposal (as with the other three adventure reviews) focuses primarily upon how the adventure fits into the Inner Sea region, and how interesting the adventure sounds as a whole. I'm going to present feedback with very little sugar-coating as well, since I've always held that frank and honest feedback is more valuable.

Feedback for Down the Blighted Path

The Basics
Title: Doesn’t really tell me much about the adventure or what to expect, really, nor does it evoke the Darklands… but it’s a pretty evocative title nonetheless, and does kinda hit on the pulpy title construction I favor for adventures. I like it!
Location: Whew… good to see us moving away from Cheliax. Still… I wish more of the adventure took place in the Darklands.
Plot: Very good! Has a great opener, stays focused, and doesn’t wander. Nor does it try to do more than a single adventure can handle. The fact that it’s got a strong beginning, middle, and end help to round things out nicely.

The Good

Spoiler:

1) A heroic dwarven woman in the background! Excellent! I’m not a fan of dwarves, but I AM delighted to see female dwarves get the spotlight as often as possible. Well done.

2) Zohir Totek is a great name for a bad guy. And having her turn Lady Delbera undead so she could torment her is a great villain trick. As mentioned below in Development Challenges, she should turn Delbera into a ghost, not a mummy… and that actually solves a problem since in order to have made her a mummy, Zohir would have had to be WAY too high level to be a villain in this adventure, really. Further… mummies aren’t as logical a foe or creature to create for a non-Osirion adventure, really.

3) Setting the opening attack on the tournament up so that it accommodates for the possibility of the PCs saving the dwarf or not is great; don’t assume one result over the other. Well done.

4) Exploring established Nar Voth locations is my preference, and the Court of Ether region is one that I’ve long wanted to see detailed more; excellent choice! Using Zohir’s inverted tower gives a taste of the court without having to spend a huge amount of time detailing the whole city too; that’s a very canny move.

5) Gothy beautiful evil artsy undead-friendly exiled fey? I like the orphnes!

6) Setting up Oremont as a place for PCs to retreat to to rest and recuperate during the adventure is an excellent idea; especially since it keeps things in the Darklands.

7) Excellent rescue of the stirge hound from obscurity! A great choice of monster to add to the adventure’s bestiary.

Development Challenges

Spoiler:

1) Skeletons can’t have class levels; the dwarven undead who attack at the start must be something else; perhaps skeletal champions?

2) The opening scene is flavorful and interesting… but the more time you spend out of the Darklands and on the surface for this adventure, the worse off. It’d be nice to try to find a way to move things underground… perhaps instead of it taking place in Macridi it takes place in a small dwarven village/city in Nar Voth Somewhere below the Palakar Forest/Macridi region? In fact… switching Macridi to an underground dwarf settlement is really kinda compelling the more I think about it.

3) I suspect “gauntlet” is the word you were looking for instead of “gamut” when talking about the PCs enduring the hail of arrows.

4) Non-evil mummies are INCREDIBLY rare. So rare that, having used one in Dragon’s Demand a few years ago… I think it’s still too soon to use another. It’d be better to have Lady Delbera be a ghost, since her role in the adventure is much more properly played by a ghost than pretty much ANY other undead. And setting it up so that the PCs have to do the adventure in order to put her ghost to rest is a perfect way to go. Especially since killing her as a ghost won’t end her torment, and she’ll be able to rejuvenate to still give her backstory if she’s defeated. If she’s just a mummy… then the adventure ends more or less once she’s killed by the PCs. Ghost is the right choice for EVERY reason.

Final Thoughts
My opinion on dwarves is well-documented, so the fact that I really enjoyed this proposal and am looking forward to having it changed to be MORE about dwarves really says something. There’s a compelling story and interesting characters to propel things along… some really neat locations to visit, and some nifty looking new monsters. Perhaps most importantly… I would love to play in this adventure. Well done!

I STRONGLY recommend “Down the Blighted Path” for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2015.

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

First, congratulations on making it to the final four! And, thanks. I know I put you through the wringer on a number of these challenges, and I appreciate the effort you've put into all these rounds. Without your hard work, there's no contest.

Also, don’t take any of the comments below to indicate I think this adventure pitch is bad. It's not. You've proven you deserve to be here, and I am going to respond with straight talk commentary and assume you can absorb that professionally, given how well you've done so far.

Now, on to judging!

Since James Jacobs is ably handling the Big Picture concerns, I can just judge based on how easy I think the adventure would be to develop, and my opinion of the concepts and presentation! I don’t want to ask voters to read too many long comments, so I'll keep my comments concise.

Title: Evocative, but a bit generic. Nothing wrong with it, but I suspect you could do better.

Background: This is both good, and cunning. Building off your round 2 map is smart, and manages to give voters another look into an adventure you've clearly done a lot of thinking about. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone do this when the rules didn't require it, and I like your imagination and confidence in your earlier round's work.
I like the breadth of PC hooks.

Chapter 1: This gets straight to the point, and is quickly interesting and engaging. It shows some rules acumen things you need to work on, especially regarding undead. The dwarves can’t be skeleton fighters. They CAN be skeletal champion fighters. Also (since it's come up), Lady delbera needs to be a ghost, not a mummy. Those are easy fixes that won't require a whole new pitch, just tweaks at the outline stage.

Chapter 2: This reads a lot like you took the notes about your encounter, and applied them to making a bigger and better version of the same basic idea – necromancy with a tower in the Court of ether. The ability to take feedback and USE it is a HUGE advantage for a writer working freelance, and I can’t overstate how encouraging I find this.
Also, you did it well. This is a neat idea and a neat area for it.

Chapter Three: This might need to be expanded a bit in the final outline, but basically this is a solid and satisfying conclusion to an adventure that lets the PCs know they made a difference. That's a great way to wrap things up, and it nicely ties together the themes and elements of the adventure.

Not only is this a solid adventure that makes good use of Nar-Voth and the things we already know about it, it's an interesting expansion with locations a GM could continue to build off of. There are some signs of your relative inexperience working with the minutia of the game rules, but also lots of evidence that you can learn and grow from feedback, which eliminates my concerns about who you'll handle the final assignment.

I STRONGLY recommend “Down the Blighted Path” for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2015.


I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the finalists. In my role at Green Ronin Publishing I have certainly seen my share of adventure proposals and can say that I think crafting adventures is one of the most difficult parts of designing in the roleplaying games arena. My comments are coming from the perspective of someone who routinely has to weigh in on balancing creative concerns with larger business strategy issues.

This adventure proposal made good use of backgrounds to tie the PCs into the store. Engaging through the festival while accounting for different outcomes and manners of getting to the meat of the story showed me that the adventure was thoughtfully considered. Accounting for player choices and offering more than one way to arrive at key points is always something I like to see in a proposal. I also, personally, find vengeance to be a really good motivator for villainous activities so the question of why all this is happening is satisfactorily answered for me. I liked the orphne as interesting new creatures to encounter in the Darklands that could provide additional interactions beyond this initial adventure.

Bringing the climax to the Court of Ether, in particular the details of Karexin Tower, worked really well for me. I like the strong attention to detail for the final confrontation with Zohir and the consideration of tactics not only for Zohir but the various minions described as well. This is a pretty straight-forward adventure, linear in the sense that there is a pretty direct path to the conclusion without being constraining or assuming one particular set of action for the PCs.

This is a strong, well-considered proposal. I would support it winning RPG Superstar 2015.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

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Way to go Honey!!

Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Andrew Marlowe wrote:
Way to go Honey!!

That's adorable.

Spouses that play (Pathfinder) together stay together.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

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The premise is simple, but compelling: A necromancer gets her revenge on an old, deceased rival and uses the loyalty of her people against her. The scope is tight, avoiding the usual problems I see in modules that try to do too much at once. The few elements in the adventure have plenty of room for expansion and intrigue. I find the characters rather interesting. I want to learn more about Delbera and Zohir and about their rivalry. I want to explore Zohir's fortress and see what creative sins of nature she has crafted. I now want an orphne-related player race. Shadow-touched or exiled fey always fascinated me since Realm of the Fellnight Queen. An artistic, gothic fell-nymph? Yes please. There's a lot to like about this adventure.

As mentioned by the judges, there's some issues (why do you use en-dashes instead of hyphens for "non-combat?"). I'd think a title like "Bound to the Blighted Oath" works better considering the villain's plan involves twisting a magical oath to enslave a leader's loyal men. But these are minor nitpicks.

I also like that you made little assumption about what the players will do. There's several ways for the adventure to turn differently, and you do a great job accounting for that. You skillfully avoided railroading.

In my opinion, you struck a home run with this adventure.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

Thank you all very much for your feedback.


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wow.. I always knew you were talented! I have not played Pathfinder yet, but I LOVE dwarfs and this makes me seriously want to play!

I would buy this module for my son who plays and make him run it so I could too.


I actually am a big fan of salt mummies and I like the idea of a mummified dwarf. However, mechanically the ghost makes more sense. I think the mummified corpse would still be useful as a prop. Perhaps instead of malevolence she has a customized ability, such as animating her own corpse as a talking skeleton.

I like the oath-axe thing. Very Tolkien-esque, and also reminiscent of the adventures set in Mystara back in the day.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

I found this adventure to be the strongest of the four. Congratulations on your excellent work! I really hope to pick up your adventure in the near future. :)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

Congrats, Monica. I gave some feedback earlier, so I'm not going to say much about this.

I will say I love the title, which I think is really evocative (though I can also see where Garrick's coming from).

I think one of my other favorite parts was the mobat mounts and the aerial combat. I think that'd be a really memorable scene and a lot of fun to run/play.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka dien

Agree with Jacob that when I read through, the mobat fight sounded like the one that would be the most sheer fun. It's a rare scenario that allows for group aerial combat of everyone, and when it does happen, it's usually at a higher level. The idea of that, especially with high-stakes danger falling damage if someone does fall off their mount, would just be one really darn cool encounter.

The whole thing is a lot of fun, but the mobat fight is my favorite. :3 Better not have dumped Ride, guys...

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Congratulations, Monica!

I had some nitpicks when I first read this, but I am really impressed with the immediate cleanup of your prose and the exciting cinema in your encounters. I believe my vote will have to choose between your pitch and the Conquest.

Really great job this year. You took the challenge seriously and delivered a whirlwind performance that puts you on the map as a designer. Regardless of the outcome of the final round voting, you are a Superstar and I can't wait to work with you in the future!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka MythrilDragon

VOTE LOCKED!


Great work Monica, can you guess where my vote went? I am very impressed, and look forward to running this adventure sometime in the near future.

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Congratulations on making the Top 4! Well done! I’m going to be very honest and straight up in my review here. Please understand when I seem harsh that this is designed to be constructive rather than to malign. I think all four finalists are excellent designers with many great ideas!

The title leaves me a bit flat. Not very exciting or evocative for me. Titles are one of the hardest parts of Adventure design however and I don’t hold that against the overall submission. Referring back to the sensational Axebringer map with the plotline was a nice touch and allowing it to be incorporated into the adventure design is great! That the location could now become an official part of Golarion is wonderful.

The adventure hooks are well done as the reasons the adventurers may be in place at the start of the adventure can vary quite a bit. However motivation to adventure outside of possible dwarven PCs is somewhat lacking. More of a generic tie in beyond dwarves would have helped round out connections to the adventure.

I like how the first encounter has multiple possible endings and how they can be tied to getting the PCs to the dungeon. There is a slight hiccup in a reference to rescuing a party member. I can only assume that this situation would follow a party member dwarf being the target instead of the NPC. This should have been explained batter, though it is referred to briefly in the PC hooks section. That detail should have been dropped and elaborated on in the finished product, not the submission.

The encounter with Lady Delbera is a cool idea. Non-evil cursed undead are intriguing story points and make for evocative stories. But putting actual dialogue at this point is useless. There will be so many changes from between now and the finished product that any number of details in the speech will most likely have to be changed. A generic statement of her intentions and what could be accomplished here through dialogue is all that was required.

The Court of Ether seems to have taken hold of the imaginations through the various rounds this year, either directly or in theme. That is alright as this is a region of Nar-Voth not well defined. Although closest to the surface, it is still described as being as vast and varied as the surface world. We are not getting that from most of the submissions, which have generally decided to play it somewhat safe and stick to places mentioned previously in other Paizo publications.

Nice work on bringing Orphne into the game! Taking an unused figure from Greek mythology and creating a related monster is classic design. I like how the new monster ties into the mythological inspiration by being connected to death as the original lived in Hades and was even called Styx. An excellent fey nymph tied to the Court of Ether.

The optional location isn’t really; optional locations are usually areas designed to allow GMs to expand the adventure if they so wish. This area is only optional if the PCs choose to not go there. There is little to no adventure in the trip to Oremont. There should be at least an extra single encounter mini-adventure should the PCs go there to make it work for me.

Karexin Tower is a very cool dungeon. There have been very few dungeons set in stalactites over the years and I have always liked them from the Life-Tree of the Hylar in Thorbardin to the Necromancer’s Spike in Pedestal. The idea of levels wider at the top and narrowing as they descend is very cool and creates unique maps and encounter locations, although I think and opportunity was lost by not having the party enter from the bottom and head upwards: sort of an inversion of a standard dungeon crawl.

This whole adventure seems built off the previous entries. It really is only a Narrick encounter away from being a complete sweep. I like that as it takes established accomplishments and builds on them. Instead of coming up with all new material that is completely original, this submission uses past material and builds on it. I like that approach as I find it adds levels of depth that are hard to achieve otherwise so I’m not going to complain, especially since the Hanging Gardens of Karexin was one of my favorite encounters in the last round.

Again, too many details have been given in the final battle between Zohir Totek and the party. The dialogue wasted a number of words as did that encounter. Quite a few more words could have been used to better describe the interior of Karexin Tower. This was an oversight and mistake in the submission stage.

In spite of the minor flaws in the submission, the story and adventure described are very good and filled with the weird and evocative. This is exactly what I would want to see in an adventure set in Nar-Voth. I liked it a lot and therefore I will be voting for this entry.

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OK title, tied for second, but I came here third.* Down the Path seems a little nursery (or at best Carol). EDIT: Bound and Oath are strong adventure words.

*'tis not your fault that dyslexia & grammar nazi-ism kept me changing "Lighted" to "Lit" until a second later "oh, nope there's a 'B'... more than once. :P

You have developed characters, which I relish in gaming as much as I do in fiction and movies. Totek has motivation and goals and a long term plan to achieve them. Outwaiting the PCs to die? Brilliant plan for a fey with necromantic tendencies. And not just in the antagonist but also in the exposition character, and possibly even in the other Rising Blades. In two sentences you give them a history and then families. :) The town has character (spring rains, logging trade, festival with games. The stalactite tower also has character. That is I can already picture it as a memorable location. At first I was a little bothered by the inclusion of a map (that none of the other contestants got to include) but READING the description of a map that isn't included told me you didn't need it.

I see a full plot and really appreciate that you accounted for multiple outcomes to a given event. This is very strong work. Another great finish to another great ride. I hope to see this ride continue.

in part two, where Delbara's halfling companion, dead two hundred years is freed from her undead prison with the death of the necromancer.

Well done, Monica. Good luck!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Dwarves and fey are some of my favorite things and you tied them well together in a coherent way. Best of luck!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Arkos

Once I saw that this was a competition between Nar-Voth adventures, I knew that I was looking for the proposal with a plotline that would draw me into the depths against my better judgment. I'm not generally a fan of underground adventures, and just a regular dungeon crawl in a cave would leave me flat.

"Down the Blighted Path" has so many intriguing reasons to get my characters underground. An epic quest from the dead? A super cool dwarf mummy? The search for a lost almost-artifact? Fey in the dark? This would be fun to play, both thematically and mechanically.

I'm totally bought in. For me, this round of the competition was all about the plot and you've got it here in spades. Great work!

Star Voter Season 8

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I'm basically just an average GM, and I spend much more time reading adventures than actually playing them, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Wow, that was awesome!

From the moment you described the Axebringer's opponents as memorable and forgettable, you had my attention. The basic plot may be pretty standard vengeance, but the details are exquisite and original.

The characters are intriguing, if the PCs go off the rails there is guidance on how to handle it in a cool way. Every detail I can think of was accounted for.

This entry has my vote (and a very short review, since I can't think of anything to improve).

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My own critiques would mostly echo the three main judges, with two exceptions, which are...

1) I'm personally curious about the Court of Ether and it's city, which JJ points out you'd be getting to detail a little bit from a certain angle with Chapter 3, but that tease of a taste would almost be worse because it would suggest what the city was like, without really giving a proper full description and then it connects to my second exception..

2) I'm not a fan of the undead-fey mix in the orphne (nice name, solid grab from Greek myth, etc.). I know it's the underdark, and that'll have an effect on anything that lives down there, and then you have a solid-ish reason for the change (lazurite), but IF the fey "needed" to be affected by the underdark, I'd sooner it have been in an aberations-like direction if at all. And really, that's just it in my mind. Dark fey don't need to be like any other type. They deserve to be their own type, and I worry that the introduction of these undead-leaning (you've tied it into a racial ability) fey would become the bulk of "dark fey" and thus the Court of Ether gets less interesting to me personally.

Those are kind of odd angles, I know, to think about in terms of "is this module Superstar" etc. but I think, as someone that rarely plays the modules-as-adventures, but knows many of them for the story elements and how they develop/evolve/fleshout Golarion, its my first real thought and concern (how you'll alter the world, for good or ill).

In this case, I'm worried your module will develop an area I was really interested in, toward a direction that practically kills it for me. Golarion/Pathfinder doesn't need more undead-fey hybrids.

Bonus Comment: I like how you were able to sneak more into your proposal in a sense by using a map you previously designed in a different round, BUT I didn't like the map's design then (if you review my comments there). So it kind of equals out.

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What a quandary. I love the tight plot but winced through some of the decisions.

Picking nits:
I'm rolling a dwarf for this dwarf-themed module, no doubt about that. But I know how bad it feels to be arbitrarily removed from play in service of a plot—it's not fun to sit out of the action, and worse to see everyone become that much more invested.

If a GM pulls the first encounter's trick of kidnapping a PC for the rest of the party to rescue, and I'm the kidnapped PC's player, it's nap time. That's a potential death knell of fun for that player anywhere in an adventure, but at the beginning while establishing the story? That's hard to rebound from. On the other hand, if the kidnapping attempt doesn't takes the PC out of the fight, why include the option?

Undead-but-self-aware Delbera is awesome... not facing many consequences for re-killing her is not. If the PCs put her down, she can't release the oaths on Firebrand, right? Which means the PCs wind up controlling a small army of undead dwarves and potentially even a gargoyle or two? Otherwise, what happens to the oaths sworn to her when's she's killed again, or permanently put to rest when the PCs acquire the axe?

Firebrand sounds awesome... statting it but not telling how it's capable of controlling its oathbound beneficiaries after their deaths is not. (PS: that is such a cool ability please stat it)

Secret smunirfeblin villages are awesome... the village somehow being at once hidden and also on the Endless Gulf is not. Is there a potential line of sight from the tower to Oremont? It almost sounds like there is. "Karexin Tower, which is across the Endless Gulf from the svirfneblin village. The PCs acquire mobat mounts from the svirfneblin scout leader to fly across the open abyss."

There's so many things I love in here and the story is so tight. It's a great sign that my two front-runners are so close that I have to fall back on personal taste, where Down the Blighted Path trips a few too many times to stay ahead of Chris's more ambitious, looser Hollowheart Conquest.

I'm still on board to get Blighted Path if it wins, but I'd rather play and GM Hollowheart by a hair and think I'd also get more replayability out of it in the long run. That it even has to come down to such a consideration is a testament to how evenly matched these two are in my eyes.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Small and nitpicky, but a peeve of mine. Naming something one thing and referring to it as another. Long Road/Blighted Path. Blighted Path as a name does not seem to fit with the enemies, encounters, environment, etc. Especially when compared to previous uses in Golarion/Pathfinder.

Also, the Firebrand is a pretty low CL MacGuffin for the control over those sworn to it (even if they are mindless undead). It's my least favorite magic item for the round. I like to play neutral characters and I could totally see making off with axe and having undead dwarves at my beck and call. All equipped with horned helms...

I really like the sense of history conveyed in this submission!

Star Voter Season 6

Great job, Monica! I love it!
Well-developed and satisfying story, nice use of sinister dark fey, fun inclusion of spiroskeks and dread gluttons, clever building off your previous map and encounter, nifty underground village addition, interesting characters, cool stalactite villain lair, and aerial combat over the endless gulf ... Awesome!
I would love to own this adventure in print. I hope I will! :)

Star Voter Season 6

Garrett Guillotte wrote:

If a GM pulls the first encounter's trick of kidnapping a PC for the rest of the party to rescue, and I'm the kidnapped PC's player, it's nap time. That's a potential death knell of fun for that player anywhere in an adventure, but at the beginning while establishing the story? That's hard to rebound from. On the other hand, if the kidnapping attempt doesn't takes the PC out of the fight, why include the option?

Garrett, if the skeletons go after a PC, I think we can presume the PCs will fight fiercely to stop it from happening. Unless the skeletons are TPK difficulty-level, you don't have to worry about sitting out the rest of the adventure.

As for why one would include the option if it doesn't end in a successful kidnapping ... Well, wouldn't your character be even more likely to investigate this whole thing if he was one of the intended victims? I think it's a cool hook!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

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Between your entry and Chris', I'm going to have a hard time casting my vote!

If I had made the final round, I was actually working up a concept pretty similar to this one: something set in an isolatable part of the Court of Ether, with an opportunity to ally with svirfnbelin nearby. Love me those dark fey. And I really like what you did with this idea, and particularly the way you worked your material from earlier rounds into the adventure; I would have been nervous to do that, but you made it all work.

I think the orphne is an awesome dark fey, and would love to see it developed. And I really love the villain's motivation and tactics; tormenting a hated nemesis in undeath is wicked cool.

You've been one of my favorite contestants from the beginning, and I had you pegged for the Final Four from the start. You've come on strong in every round, and I've also always appreciated your positive and judicious presence on the forums. And I think it's just awesome that you've done all this as a first-time designer; you must just have creativity coming out your ears, but you also seem to be able to master the gritty parts quickly too. It's great that you took the step into designing, and whether you win the contest or not, I hope you'll keep at it!


I'm confused as to why Skeletons cannot have fighter levels. Wouldn't you just use the Adding Class Levels part of the monster advancement rules?

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Caedwyr wrote:
I'm confused as to why Skeletons cannot have fighter levels. Wouldn't you just use the Adding Class Levels part of the monster advancement rules?

Skeletons are mindless, and thus unable to have class levels. Skeletal champions (essentially intelligent, sentient skeletons) can, and often do, have class levels. It's a minor distinction, really; the fact that this and the ghost thing were the most glaring issues with the proposal is testimony to how airtight it is. I wish I had this degree of raw talent, to come up with something so ridiculously tight on my first freakin' try!!! Hats off to you, m'lady, and bravo on a magnificent performance this whole season!

Grand Lodge

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Congratulations on getting me to cast my first vote in an RPG Superstar.

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such an honor :)

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Not that voting is over, I don't feel bad about talking about this as much.

Garrett, I don't think the svirf village is meant to be right at the edge of the gulf. That's where the fight is, but then PCs would have to travel to the village itself. That still makes it on opposite sides of the gulf from the tower, but doesn't necessarily mean it has to be right at the edge.

(Note, this is just how I read it; I have no "inside information" on if that's true or not.)

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

Christopher Wasko wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
I'm confused as to why Skeletons cannot have fighter levels. Wouldn't you just use the Adding Class Levels part of the monster advancement rules?
Skeletons are mindless, and thus unable to have class levels. Skeletal champions (essentially intelligent, sentient skeletons) can, and often do, have class levels. It's a minor distinction, really; the fact that this and the ghost thing were the most glaring issues with the proposal is testimony to how airtight it is. I wish I had this degree of raw talent, to come up with something so ridiculously tight on my first freakin' try!!! Hats off to you, m'lady, and bravo on a magnificent performance this whole season!

Thank you for the explanation, I have been at work all weekend and just rolled in to add my 2 coppers!

Thank you, you have been wonderful and I wish you all the very best.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

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First - THANK YOU EVERYONE! You have all been so wonderful to me! I cannot even put into words how amazing of a ride this has been. I cannot tell you how many times I said (to anyone who would listen) "What was I thinking!?" But it was worth it. I learned more than I ever imagined. I'm kind of speechless on how overwhelming this can be in both good and seemingly insurmountable ways.

Second - the critiques. Thanks all who stepped in and answered the questions for the most part, I started a new job a couple weeks ago and I have been at work. However - I did plan to make Delbera a ghost and I went with a mummy because I felt like there was more visceral yuck to it than a ghost, but if I get to write this up that will be an easy change.

The svirfneblin village is hidden and if the PCs do not save the svirfs, they do not get to go to the village and utilize whatever stores might be there. The PCs still get the dead scouts mounts though, so they don't have to walk all the way around the Endless Gulf, because that would suck.

If your PC is captured by the skeletons and you don't get away, you'll be making up a new PC, because your PC will be mounted on a stake in the Firebrand's great hall, sorry, there's not sitting this one out. They should be easy enough for the party to manage, but it's the PC or them.

Lucus Palosaari wrote:


In this case, I'm worried your module will develop an area I was really interested in, toward a direction that practically kills it for me. Golarion/Pathfinder doesn't need more undead-fey hybrids.

Lucus, if there are other living fey who can animate dead I would love to know what they are because I search high and low and found nothing on it and I picked the brain of everyone on my pit crew. I'm not sure what you mean by "undead-fey" hybrids, so if you could clarify this I would love to know more.

Other than that, best of luck to my fellow 2015 Top 4!


Monica Marlowe wrote:
Christopher Wasko wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
I'm confused as to why Skeletons cannot have fighter levels. Wouldn't you just use the Adding Class Levels part of the monster advancement rules?
Skeletons are mindless, and thus unable to have class levels. Skeletal champions (essentially intelligent, sentient skeletons) can, and often do, have class levels. It's a minor distinction, really; the fact that this and the ghost thing were the most glaring issues with the proposal is testimony to how airtight it is. I wish I had this degree of raw talent, to come up with something so ridiculously tight on my first freakin' try!!! Hats off to you, m'lady, and bravo on a magnificent performance this whole season!

Thank you for the explanation, I have been at work all weekend and just rolled in to add my 2 coppers!

Thank you, you have been wonderful and I wish you all the very best.

I ended up finding the information in the Monster Roles section. Like most of the books, the organization leaves a lot to be desired and important information such as this can easily be missed.


In this entry you got all the plates spinning at the same time. You've done really well in every round. I was least impressed with the previous round, which was "merely" solid. In contrast, I was confident as soon as I read this entry you probably had it locked up. Your concept was superb, fresh, and well-realized. I'm a big Ray Harryhausen fan, and you have skeletons, a mummified dwarf, gargoyles, and so many other colorful touches. There's so much about this pitch that's fun. Let me just say that your entry wasn't written by a contestant, it was written by a designer. From the inside out, I can see the thought that was put into making this work.

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